Letters to the editor: MV building department, climate change, Caltrain


MV building department

I have spent the better part of the last two months at the Mountain View building department trying to get minor building permits. I would not wish the ordeal I endured on my worst enemy.

I remember the times when permits made sense and fees reflected the effort spent on them by the city officials. I must be getting old. Balancing the safety of the public and property interests of the owners must have become too old-fashioned for our new city government to worry about. Indeed, it reeks too much of the time when the good, late Anthony Ghiossi was in change, productively working with everyone using common sense yet keeping sight of the big picture.

Instead, we got a brave new bureaucracy that has no vested interest in anything and just keeps itself going for the sake of going and requires mounds of useless paperwork just because it can. It is our reality, the Kafkaesque nightmare of the current building department headed by Shellie Woodworth. If you need to have three engineers, an architect, an energy consultant and a traffic consultant involved at a total cost of over $20,000 just to replace leaking HVACs, something is very wrong with our system. Nothing in the building codes requires such extensive paperwork for the permit.

The building department has become the least checked branch of our local government and this is why power abuses are rampant. We cannot vote them out of the office as we did not elect them in the first place and we cannot effectively sue them. Sadly, we are all paying the price by seeing slowly dilapidating older buildings whose owners would rather sell out to some big developers or do nothing instead of doing even some minor work and subjecting themselves to the pointlessness, unpredictability and expense of the current permitting process. It affects the character of the city, the disappearing charm of the old town, and, most importantly, our basic right to keep ourselves and our property from government abuse and harassment.

Maria Rutenburg, Castro Street property owner

Redwood City

Caltrain's vision

The notion of adoption of the 2040 vision "to create a 'big tent' that, according to Caltrain staff, "shows how all of the investments currently being planned in the corridor can fit together as part of a cohesive whole, with expanded Caltrain service further enhancing their value and importance" could not be more compelling and true in my opinion. As a region, one of our failings over the years has been the strategy on the part of many agencies to study smaller individual projects, thinking that the smaller price tags would improve the chances of building them.

However, the flip side generally speaking has been that the "measurable" benefits of the (smaller) projects have been limited by this approach and non-sustaining to the successes of the projects. I believe the approach to building this larger, more cohesive business case should be vigorously pursued.

Jill Hough

San Jose

A relentless force

Positive feedback is a relentless force. It causes the painful screeching at a concert when a microphone gets too close to the loudspeaker. Today, it is a real and catastrophic force impacting our global climate systems.

When sea ice melts in the Arctic it allows more energy to reach the Earth, which makes more ice melt. When the Siberian tundra thaws and releases megatons of carbon, ditto.

We have been blessed with tens of thousands of years where the planet's solar budget balanced, but our industrial society has tipped that balance toward those terrifying feedback regions. Only a major change in our economy away from endless growth and toward sustainable agriculture, transportation and energy production can save us from that screeching feedback destroying our civilization.

Ed Taub

Devoto Street

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13 people like this
Posted by Dan Waylonis
a resident of Jackson Park
on Sep 27, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Dan Waylonis is a registered user.

Thanks to Maria Rutenburg for sharing her pain.

This is the primary reason why there are insufficient housing units in MV.

Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2019 at 10:00 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

I hate to say this but in many ways I agree with Maria,

But the public safety is an absolute priority no matter what.

Another issue is that she isn't a resident of Mountain View, thus NOT a citizen. Simply the idea that she owns property here is irreleavent. And over and over again, I point out that there is not "private property" in the U.S. HOW?

Because you pay "rent" in the form of property taxes. If you don't pay them, your property is taken. Thus there is no such thing as "private property rights".

In the U. S. Constitution you are entitled to compensation (except if not paying property taxes) when your land in taken by a government, nothing more.

THe California Constitution does entitle you to a "fair rate of return" but the courts and common sense clearly allows for a "loss" nonetheless if owners make bad decisions. Or if the economy goes south.

WHEN will the "private property rights" advocates understand they are making up this idea, and is not real.

4 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Bloated bureaucracy is a burden on efficient government and the taxpayer, but it also obviates the civic logic of the entrepreneurial process.

Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Tina you said:

“Bloated bureaucracy is a burden on efficient government and the taxpayer,”

What scientific proof do you have to declare that the bureaucracy is bloated? You have to provide some kind of substantiation or evidence that this is a “bloated” agency. For example, what are the other agencies doing that distinguishes the benchmark of efficiency? You also said:

“but it also obviates the civic logic of the entrepreneurial process.”

The Government is not obligated to support or advocate for the entrepreneurial process. The U.S. and California Constitutions provide no basis to support that. The Declaration of Independence does have an unalienable right to the PURSUIT of happiness. But that is the PURSUIT and not the achievement.

The Government is obligated under U.S. Supreme Court rules to allow for free speech regarding business, but NOT any SPECIAL treatment. The Government must balance the constitutional rights of citizens from the financial interests of business. So if the policies are related to the needs of the citizens of a city for example versus a business in the city, the reality is the citizens come first.

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Posted by Ale
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 1, 2019 at 9:43 pm

Maria’s complaint seems emotionally charged. Replacing a commercial HVAC to meet modern safety and energy requirements will need consultation and involving all those people is smart. The price seems reasonable for a commercial space visited by many people.

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